California Soul: Music of African Americans in the West

California Soul: Music of African Americans in the West
Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje and Eddie S. Meadows, editors

Focusing on blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, and soul music, California Soul is one of the first books to explore the rich musical heritage of African Americans in California. The contributors describe in detail the individual artists, locales, groups, musical styles, and regional qualities, and the result is an important book that lays the groundwork for a whole new field of study. The essays draw from oral histories, music recordings, newspaper articles and advertisements, as well as population statistics to provide insightful discussions of topics like the California urban milieu’s influence on gospel music, the development of the West Coast blues style, and the significance of Los Angeles’s Central Avenue in the early days of jazz. Other essays offer perspectives on how individual musicians have been shaped by their African American heritage, and on the role of the record industry and radio in the making of music. In addition to the diverse range of essays, the book includes the most comprehensive bibliography now available on African American music and culture in California.

Blues City: A Walk in Oakland by Ishmael Reed

Blues City: A Walk in Oakland
by Ishmael Reed

This work takes the reader on a walk through the vibrant multicultural stew of Oakland, California. Oakland is often overshadowed by San Francisco, its neighbor across the Bay, but is itself an American wonder. The city is surrounded by and filled with physical beauty–hills, mountains, bays, and the ocean–as well as architecture that mirrors its history as a Spanish mission, Gold Rush outpost, and home of the West’s biggest robber barons in the early 20th century. Today, Oakland is perhaps most famous for its astonishingly diverse communities. In one district alone, more than 200 languages are spoken–more than on the entire continent of Europe. This is a city of refugees and immigrants, of political radicals, utopians, and apocalyptic of all stripes. In Blues City, Ishmael Reed–a longtime Oakland resident himself–takes us on a tour of what he calls “planet city,” exploring its fascinating history, its beautiful hills and waterfronts, and its odd cultural juxtapositions such as Japanese jazz clubs and black cowboy parades, opening our eyes to not only a singular city, but to a newly emerging America.

Bob Geddins

Bob Geddins in about 1959Bob Geddins recorded most of the musicians of 7th Street, including Saunders King, Lowell Fulson and Sugar Pie DeSanto. He helped countless musicians get their start and wrote blues songs that topped the charts in the ‘50s and ‘60s. However, because Geddins didn’t copyright his work, he “got cheated out of all kinds of money,” as he said in a 1977 interview.

Geddins came to California from Texas in 1933. He lived in Los Angeles until 1943, when he and his large family (he had 13 children) joined his mother in West Oakland. Like so many Southern transplants, he found work in the Kaiser shipyards. Continue reading “Bob Geddins”